Issue 19’s Review
A review by editor Shelley Timms (this review can also be read in Issue 19: The List)
The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of essays and stories written by Yale graduate Marina Keegan, and released after her untimely death in 2012. A talented writer with so much potential, the collection showcases her best work, including the titular essay that received more than 1.4 million hits online. At just 22, Keegan had developed an “expansive trove of prose” that was well beyond her years.
The Opposite of Loneliness is divided into two sections; fiction and non-fiction, and both feature pieces that show her strengths when it comes to writing. I flew through this book, and finished it in a few days. As a university student, and so called “millennial” I found myself being able to relate to some of her essays and short stories. In particular, the fear of life after higher education, and losing the structure that comes with attending university.
The short story Cold Pastoral was also relatable, as it touched on the naivety of relationships as a young adult, and also the fragility of life and regrets that follow when a loved one passes away. Other highlights include Reading Aloud, a story about a woman stuck in an unhappy marriage, that decides the only way to feel sexy again is to slowly undress as she reads to the blind man she visits each week.
Although Keegan’s fiction is creative and well written, her true talent lies in creative non-fiction. The piece, Why We Care About Whales, is honestly one I find myself raving about to whoever will listen and one I think about often. Upon reading the first paragraph, I whipped out my highlighter and began to mark phrases that were particularly mesmerising.
The opening sentence reads: “When the moon gets bored, it kills whales.” I was hooked, and soon taken on a heartbreaking journey which follows Keegan’s fruitless attempts to save beached whales in Cape Cod. Eventually, she finds herself stroking the drying head of a beached whale until he took his last breath under the moonlight. It wasn’t necessarily Keegan’s account of what had happened on the shores of Cape Cod that remained with me, it was the comparison she made to the way we react to events such as this, and the sight of starving African children or a homeless person on the street.
“Stranded humans don’t roll with the tide – they hide in the corners and the concrete houses and the plains of exotic countries we’ve never heard of, dying of diseases we can’t pronounce.”
This book had been on my radar for quite some time, and now I regret not picking it up sooner. I highly recommend it to anyone, but in particular those who are studying creative writing or something similar, as most of the pieces are from Keegan’s classes, and have definitely served as inspiration for my writing over the past few months.
5 out of 5 stars.